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Michigan Football: Freddy Canteen Shines Brightest, Other Thoughts on Wolverines' 2014 Spring Game

There were good moments...and then there were Freddy Canteen's moments. Improvement on the D-Line seems probable, but the O-Line still needs work.

Entering his fourth year at Michigan, Brady Hoke needs to find success in 2014 or face the music.
Entering his fourth year at Michigan, Brady Hoke needs to find success in 2014 or face the music.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Freddy Canteen's spring game performance far exceeded expectations.

Well, the Michigan freshman wideout certainly impressed spectators. However, he's talked about his play-making ability all week, so he probably didn't surprise himself.

Per Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News, this past week , Canteen said that his high school coaches prepared him for this level of play and that he entered with a playmaker's mindset.

And lo and behold, he wasted little time proving that Saturday at The Big House. The early enrollee corralled a 44-yardish touchdown pass from quarterback Devin Gardner, the elder statesman of the offense--as in the only senior on offense.

If it weren't for an underthrow from Gardner, the 6'1," 170-pound former Elkton Eastern Christian star would have had two deep touchdown catches on the day. Of course, it was just the spring game--no big deal, right?! A few nice routes against "friendly" defensive backs aren't enough to hand over a starting spot to the newcomer.


Whether you're glass-half-fuller or glass-half-emptier, you can't deny what you saw from Canteen: Speed, hands and knowledge of the system. Sure, everyone is adapting to Doug Nussmeier's philosophies, but Canteen's been in college for all of three months.

He looked as, if not more, comfortable as anyone on the field. That includes defenders, too.

Big Willy Style

I will use this subheader a lot...I like it...

By now, Willie Henry is gaining popularity within Wolverines football fan circles. The 6'2," 297-pound redshirt sophomore appeared to be at home on the D-Line and made a statement with his near-steal during a handoff.

Catch the Big Ten Network's video here.

Henry, a tackle, gives reason to believe in Team 135's D-Line heading into the season. On the rise late this past year, he got 16 of 26 tackles in the final four games. That's what you call a kick in the pants.

The Wolverines only had 25 sacks in 2013, ranking No. 65 in the nation. That's not a stat in which upon defensive coordinator Greg Mattison would hang his hat.

De'Veon Smith

RBs are on schedule...

BTN's Matt Shepard loosely compared the sophomore back to Mark Ingram, a former Flint Southwestern star who won the 2009 Heisman Trophy and helped lead Alabama to a national championship.

Nussmeier wasn't at Alabama back then. But if there's any Ingram in Smith, Nussmeier should be able to find it. I

ngram had one of the greatest two-year stretches of any back in NCAA history. Throwing out the "Smith reminds me of Mark Ingram" line is a bit premature. But it's not completely out range, at least not when comparing size: While with the Tide, Ingram came in at 5'11" and 215 pounds; Smith is the same height, but, at 223, eight pounds heavier.

No harm in loosely comparing. But by no means should you expect Smith to be anything like Ingram--not right now. Focusing on Smith beating out Derrick Green, who saw minimal action Saturday, seems like a solid starting point.

Give Smith time. He looks ready to charge. But don't forget about reports of Green's progress. He was the No. 8-ranked back (per 247Sports) of 2013 for a reason.


For the most part, everyone was cool...

If I had to pick one thing that I don't like about Brady Hoke, it's his apparent lack of fire. He's a qualified coach, no doubt there. And everyone has their style, and I get that. No headset? Cool--but pump fists, get mad and show passion.

Maybe I'm too high-strung, but I like seeing a coach lose his voice and getting high-pitched while grunting out lines about his team. Hoke's almost there. At this point, I'd wager that he's just waiting for things to fall into place before breaking out a Rambo bandana and leading battle chants on the sidelines.

Nussmeier came across as a "football guy." That makes three of them occupying high-profile roles at Michigan. Mattison, as usual, seemed energetic. Hoke and Nuss should drink his coffee--Mattison's energy is contagious and the coaching staff would be doing itself a favor by adopting his approach.

O-Liners Need Work

Watch the scrimmage. Then watch it again. Then remember how many times Hoke mentioned how his team needed to improve.

That tells the story of Team 135 as a whole, but it's pretty accurate when giving a streamlined summary of the O-Line.

Mason Cole, a freshman, saw reps. Jack Miller had a few exchanges with quarterbacks. Logan Tuley-Tillman, also a frosh, took part in drills and scrimmage activities, too. In essence, it was more about giving guys time on the field than actually competing.

There was no score. No official stats were kept. It was just a widely publicized practice that gave Wolverines fans a glimpse at the guys who'll either make or ruin the fall of 2014.

No pressure, guys.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81